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Xcel Energy cleaning up radioactive leak at Monticello nuclear generating plant

Xcel Energy cleaning up radioactive leak in Monticello
Xcel Energy cleaning up radioactive leak in Monticello 02:25

MONTICELLO, Minn. -- Minnesota state agencies are monitoring Xcel Energy's cleanup of a tritium leak at a Monticello nuclear generating plant.

According to state officials, 400,000 gallons of water contaminated with tritium leaked from a water pipe running between two buildings at the facility. In late November, Xcel Energy confirmed and reported the leak to state officials as well as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

State officials say the leak has since been stopped and has been contained to the facility.

"This is a very localized leak, it is not migrated off-site, there has been no risk to public health or public safety," Dan Huff, Assistant Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health said. "Our number one action was to stop the leak and excel did that the number two action is make sure that Xcel reclaims the water and they're working on that."

This July 24, 2008 photo shows the Monticello nuclear power plant in Monticello, MN. The site, which began operating in 1971, has a single nuclear reactor (boiling water reactor) of the General Electric BWR-3 design generating 613 megawatts, but studies are ongoing to uprate it to 700 MWe. It is owned by Northern States Power Company (NSP), today a subsidiary of Xcel Energy, and is operated by Nuclear Management Company (NMC). The reactor was licensed to operate until 2010, however on November 8, 2006, it was extended to operate until 2030. AFP PHOTO/Karen BLEIER KAREN BLEIER/AFP via Getty Images

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says there's no threat to drinking water or the nearby Mississippi River, but that the groundwater under the plant does move toward the river.

"There is no evidence at this time to indicate a risk to any drinking water wells in the vicinity of the plant," the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said.

Xcel Energy says it has recovered about 25% of the tritium released, with recovery continuing over the next year.

"Our top priority is protecting residents and the environment, and the MPCA is working closely with other state agencies to oversee Xcel Energy's monitoring data and cleanup activities," Kirk Koudelka, MPCA assistant commissioner for land and strategic initiatives, said. "We are working to ensure this cleanup is concluded as thoroughly as possible with minimal or no risk to drinking water supplies."   

Xcel says it plans on powering down the plant next month to remove and repair the broken pipe. They hope examining it will provide answers as to why it broke.

Tritium is a radioactive form of hydrogen and a byproduct of the nuclear power plants' production of electricity. 

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